“It is very often nothing but our own vanity that deceives us.”
- Jane Austen -
"You might think history teaches; it repeats;
page after page, a poem in perfect rhyme
tolls echoing bells from both sides of the sheets
for births and funerals, tells the time
of ageless Alice, Hamlet's fallacies-
the latest light from vanished galaxies."
- Suite of Mirrors, Harold Witt, Contact, 1962
TO DRAW A CROWD
To Draw a Crowd is an artistic exploration of civilisation at the beginning of the 21st Century. The project is a synthesis of collective culture, one that is uniquely capable of sublime destruction and the most tender of our human realisations. It is the product of an eclectic melting pot of cultures. The intention is to acknowledge the vast differences in individuality that combine to help us face fear and provide the courage to confront the dawn of the 3rd Millennium.
To Draw a Crowd illustrates the most basic of human concepts - that of abstraction & reflection - beauty & nature. It is a collection of photosynthesised pieces that highlight what it is to be human. In this moment where nothing is fair and little is just, the art acknowledges the paintings of antiquity and the more recent past as source material of moral instruction to the present. It is a piecemeal contemporary view representative of a rich tapestry depicting change.
The purpose is simple: To translate things through time and tend the candle of consciousness. To inspire, instil hope and share love for our continued evolution. We must sidestep the potentially catastrophic consequences of a Promethean growth - one fuelled by fire. With an ability to reflect on centuries past and technological aid to help cope with our future direction we sit in a great epoch. Our very existence a fluke, in a galactic sense, even greater in light of centuries of war, toil, disease and famine. The single greatest fact of our forebears?
That of survival.
In its infancy, the creative process was an aid for memory retention. By creating stories anchored to pictures, recollection was improved. This process was then further developed into a visual photo-synthesis - a blending of photos. Each piece begins without intention and through a stream of consciousness process, one of starts lead by mistakes, figures, forms, and shapes develop. The medium of 'To Draw a Crowd' is dictated by three simple rules: readily transportable, (small and light), fast to cure (inks, pencils and acrylics) and easy to scan (hemp/paper/rag no bigger than A3). These were born of a requirement to create anywhere and at any time. Once complete each piece is scanned and tessellated through computer software.
The true essence of the art is steeped in understanding. Understanding our differences, acknowledging the past and developing a space where language & culture can be explored without fear. To create a space where we can share our journeys. To visually explore our world and the emotions we feel. Art is a tool for understanding and the key message is that we all see things differently - it is only later that we learn meaning. This meaning is amplified through changes in orientation and tessellation.
EVERYONE AIMS AT THE SAME MEANING, BUT MANY ARE THE VERSIONS OF THE STORY
- Suleiman the Magnificent -
HISTORICAL ROOTS FOREVER GROW
The Renaissance is associated with great social change influencing art, architecture, philosophy, literature, music, science, and technology. Fruitful in its abundance of discovery, the period was also full of ambition, bloodshed, anger, pride, and avarice. Much of the art was inspired by the morals of antiquity, to help provide guidance to a world full of vice, envy, spite, and hatred.
The Elephany Cerebes
Surrealism is known for its visual artworks and writings and the juxtaposition of distant realities. The artists dealt with absurd post-war environment by illustrating unnerving & illogical scenes through the development of techniques to unlock the subconscious.
Infinity Room - Love Forever
Post WWII great developments had taken place as war factories were converted to supply the modern consumer. By the 1960’s a thriving landscape of consumerism had taken root in many centres. Products sold lifestyles, using beauty, eroticism, glamour to connect individuals’ inner drives. Pop was a precursor to feminism, post-colonialism, and other consciousness changing developments.
UPS & DOWNS
What is the right way?
To Draw a Crowd draws inspiration from a number of places, one of these is maps. With a long history of navigation and an interest to know where we are, maps are part of our everyday life.
The earliest versions of maps are thousands of years old. Aboriginal Australians may lay claim to the oldest discovered geographical representation at up to 20,000 years old. Cave walls have also been used to portray the geographical surrounds, some dating back over 14,000 years. Maps have been found in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Ancient Greek cultures.
But, what way is up?
In ancient Egypt, east was at the top of the map, as that is where the sun rose. Equally early Christian maps used the east at the top, toward the Garden of Eden. Some ancient Islamic maps had South at the top as they wanted to ‘look’ up to Mecca - at this time most Muslim communities were north of Mecca. Likewise, the Maaori of Aotearoa/New Zealand may have used South up maps for their navigation throughout the South Pacific. Interestingly, some early Chinese maps used North at the top of the map, however, orientated their compasses to point south, for the simple reason that good winds blew from the south. They also placed the Emperor in the North, so subjects could look 'up' to him.
The success of ‘North Up’ maps is likely borne from the extensive exploring and memetic success of Europeans and is an orientation we have all grown accustomed to. For this reason, presenting familiar places upside down on a map can have a disorientating effect. These upside-down maps can help to reduce the inherent bias in the North-South divide, where north is seen as wealthy and prosperous and the south as poor and impoverished.
As we move away from Earth, the idea of up and down on maps becomes even more absurd. In space there is no ‘right way’ and the concept of up & down becomes completely arbitrary, as it was in the first place.
LITTLE BY LITTLE DOES THE TRICK
- Aesop -
LEFTS & RIGHTS
What way to go?
Scripts are graphically characterized by the direction in which they are written. Left-to-right (LTR) or right-to-left (RTL), much like up and down, are fairly arbitrary, with many cultures using a writing system borne of necessity - bear in mind that 75-90% of humans are right-handed. In ancient Asian cultures, reading direction was often dictated by the way a scroll was unfurled, with the right hand writing and the left unfurling the scroll (top-to-bottom, RTL). In modern times some of these scripts have been adapted into an LTR system to help accommodate the Latin script in things like signage and the technological limitations of early computers. Arabic and Hebrew texts are written RTL, although no one is entirely sure why. It has been suggested that their early scribes would chisel words onto stone tablets, and being right-handed, it was easier to ‘write’ if using a RTL system.
Egyptian hieroglyphs were bidirectional, either LTR or RTL with the glyphs, human or animal, turned to face the beginning of the line. The Greek alphabet and its successors settled on a LTR pattern, from the top to the bottom of the page. Left-to-right writing has the advantage that since most people are right-handed, the hand does not interfere with the just-written text.
In similar effect, for most people the right hemisphere is dominant for visuo-spatial tasks. The result is that humans have an inherent bias to the left of their visual field. It is in these human quirks that the series seeks to shed light. In European art, movement is often portrayed from left-to-right, as seen in ancient paintings and modern photography. Interestingly, viewers prefer pictures that ‘flow’ in the same direction as their native writing system.
“Ka mua, ka muri”
“Walking backwards into the future”
- Maaori Proverb -
“IT IS ONLY THROUGH REFLECTION THAT WE SEE OURSELVES”
Nature is full of repeating patterns, or tessellations, such as honeycombs, pineapples and turtle shells. Man-made tessellations are evidenced throughout history with examples seen in ancient Sumerian ruins dating back to 4000 BC. Romans, Moors, Indians and many other cultures used tiling to decorate their walls, creating a sense of awe and wonder within the spaces.
Although there are many different types of tessellation, To Draw a Crowd specifically uses the mirror form. The earliest form of mirror used by humans were most likely pools of dark, still water. The first man-made mirrors were pieces of polished stone, such as obsidian, with some found in Anatolia dating back over 8000 years. As technology progressed, polished metals were used in places like Mesopotamia and Egypt (4000 BC & 3000 BC). During the 13th - 15th centuries a surge of technical development yielded a clearly superior manufacturing process, rooted in Venice, Italy. These Venetian mirrors also helped to spur the development of portraiture in Renaissance art, changed the way people saw themselves and, in effect, helped to lay the foundations of the ‘modern individual’.
It was only 200 years ago that a German scientist invented the silver-glass mirror. Modern day mirrors are worlds apart form the ancient predecessors and are used in almost all aspects of the modern world. From manufacturing to high end optical instruments like telescopes, microscopes, and lasers. The precision in which they are made make them essential in studying the world we live in. Some can even split light.
To Draw a Crowd is the culmination of a decade in artistic exploration of a stream of consciousness project. Specialising in perspective, orientation, and reflection, the beautiful, the absurd, and the sublime. It is a photosynthesis of our global world. The works deal in shape and context, bringing order to medium and reflects upon it. Through colour, both serene moments and highly energetic junctures are defined. From the work, the audience is left to contemplate perspective, orientation and reflection, in a tumultuous global world.
The world is awash with humanness. Trails of creation and destruction are abundant across the planet, with no part untouched by the human machine. We are extractive, destructive and endlessly capable. It is in the use of these tools that we have at our disposal, to strive for betterment. We must shape fate for holistically positive outcomes.
The art challenges the viewer to look and then look again. To view from all angles. To turn things around and upside down. To write your own stories. To relate in new ways. To discover. The sense of finding something. Clues are left in titles and shapes. The representation of body and artifact. The art is a visual representation of the world we live in. An absurdist beauty exists. To take a moment and reflect on our fragility, one full of both life and destruction. These stories realise the tenderness of the human condition in sometimes violent and brutal manners.
Change in orientation highlights the different way that people perceive. Interpretation is highly individualistic. Past experiences are leant on in order to draw meaning from the designs and on reflection, we can see them grow. They represent the conversations held locally and abroad. Forged to curate conversation and discuss differences through a new medium. Are these pictures good? Are they bad? Are they full of whimsy and trivial anecdotes? Too busy? Too simple? Lacking narrative or full of life and story? They are invitations to engage in your modern world. Where else do you see similar ideas or ideals? Who owns culture? Why do we get upset at certain motifs and not at others?
This change in orientation encourages a problem solving mindset. There are many ways to look at a picture, do not be held to ransom by presentation. Equally, balance must be found. We cannot shy away from the hard, or the difficult or the complex. Like fine wine, computers or an engine, there are elements of complexity that are prerequisite to the modern world. These pieces are celebrations of innovation and simplicity. Some are labyrinth like, others peaceful and serene. There is juxtaposition within the emergent complexity.
Symmetry offers change without change. The reflection is to highlight the idea that “only later do we learn meaning”. A process of looking back in time, from where our culture, our lives have come. We use these patchworks to help us move forward in life. The patterns of habit that we create are repeated in perpetuity and form a beautiful synthesis of collective cultures. Beauty in the sense of life. Of motion. Not the antiquated realism and ‘nice’ pictures to hang on walls; rather the real-time conversations and the technological progress that we make. Standing in realms that have yet to be explored, we will use our patchwork patterns of habit to tackle new and intriguing issues in years to come. Some problems will grow bigger than others, in the same way that some seeds grow to be redwoods & others shrubs.
The series was created in three primary places, Auckland (NZ), St Paul/Minneapolis (USA) and London (UK) whilst working full-time. Without a studio; warehouses, offices, bedrooms, and dinning room tables all became creative spaces at any hour of the day. Urban street art is a significant contributor to the work. Drawing inspiration from hot spots such as Berlin, London, LA, Istanbul, Cuba, and Christchurch. Of note is the repetition of similar ideas and ideals that urban artists deal in. How these works are able to add to the localised architecture of a place and the urban discussion of human, animal, machinery and edifice.
Look for eyes, mouths, noses and faces. There are birds aplenty. Creatures of both land and sea; mythical ones too. There are hybrids, movie references, structures, foods, and tools. See if you can imagine what the art will do once reflected. Look at it from left to right and then again from right to left. How does the picture change? Leave the work. Come back later. Let your subconscious melt into the pictures. Meditate on them. Change your focus. Change your angle. You can even turn it into a game: Find some friends and see who can see the most!
Be free & enjoy.